In Depth

48 hours in West Cornwall

At the very edge of England, explore this seafood-lover’s paradise

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At the very tip of the British Isles - where the coast submits to the sea - lies West Cornwall. Unlike the rugged, Atlantic-facing northern coast, it exudes a calmer, more reflective charm with its own art scene, a warm and temperate microclimate and a fascinating architectural landscape which spans Georgian splendour and rustic fishing villages. For the curious and discerning, a relaxing and refreshingly different 48 hours await.

Marazion, a town as delightful as its evocatively Cornish name, should be the first destination on the itinerary of any traveller heading to this wonderful corner of the UK. With a stunning beach and superb views toward the Lizard Peninsula and Land's End, the town is the perfect base from which to explore the county, complete with cozy pubs, intriguing sights and high-end seafood to make any fisherman proud.

But before heading into town, be sure to check out the surrounding scenery, particularly from the nearby winding coastal road. From here, visitors are presented with the spellbinding view of the iconic St Michael’s Mount - a dense cluster of topsy-turvy homes, the earliest of which, perched on the summit, date to the 12th century. Reachable by foot at low tide (a short boat ride at high tide) there is a Famous Five escapade feeling to visiting this remote rock with a long and fascinating history.

Mount Haven hotel is tucked into the hillside so discreetly that without adequate signage one might miss it entirely. The fresh wooden exterior of this 20 room boutique hotel is flattered by the cool urban-style gardens full of subtropical plants, lending the space the aura of a sanctuary. Check in and reach your modern spacious room and you realise how this hotel got its name; the view of St Michael’s Mount from the balcony is serene, almost magical. Inside, wood and stone are used to create a relaxed Scandi interior, while the lounge invites you to relax in the mid-century style furniture and enjoy a bespoke cocktail created by FARE London.

The bright and airy hotel restaurant offers an innovative modern British menu using the finest local Cornish ingredients intriguingly combined with sea herbs and flora foraged by head chef Ross Sloan. Free from the protocol of many upscale retreats, the friendly and welcoming staff complement the natural restful experience.

A short wander to the village of Marazion will lead you to the Godolphin Arms for lunch. The traditional whitewashed exterior gives way to a fresh, open plan modern interior designed to provide diners with a spectacular view of the magnetising Mount. Tuck into fresh local scallops and delicious hake with salsa, and savour that view. 

Time to leave Marazion and head west towards Penzance - but before that, do you recall that claim to a microclimate? Visit the family run Polgoon Vineyard to see 14,000 vines on a sheltered south-facing hillside producing award-winning Baccus and Ortega. A tour and a boozy lunch might charm you into buying a case - a wise move, as their wines are only served in local restaurants.

Tremenheere gardens are a few miles from Polgoon and genuinely deserve a visit. Here you’ll find no large country house or guided tours, just a beautiful Cornish wilderness of huge ferns, exotic plants hiding 26 fascinating sculptures. Walk inside the huge camera obscura or the haunting domed chamber with an oval space above to recline and gaze up at the sky.

On a few miles to Penzance and your chance to sample the imposing Georgian architecture of Chapel House, a stylish boutique art hotel with views out to the bay. Once the Penzance Arts club, and originally the home of Admiral Samuel Hood Linzee of HMS Temeraire, this elegant house has been beautifully restored through an exhaustive two year project. 

The rooms are impressive both in scale and their exceptional design, the traditional wooden beams balancing the wow factor of the high tech bathroom (one even has a retractable glass roof for open air bathing). In addition to a breakfast of fresh smoothies, Cornish eggs and homemade granola, guests can also enjoy dinner in the hotel, expertly cooked by the owner in the large open-plan kitchen dining room adding to the enjoyably informal atmosphere.

Stroll through the Regency architecture of Chapel Street with its incongruous Egyptian House, built to celebrate Nelson’s victory at the Battle of the Nile and you will soon reach the Shore restaurant. A reservation is essential for this small, stylish restaurant, owned and operated by chef Bruce Rennie, who has earned a reputation for providing one of the stand-out dining experiences in West Cornwall. The menu uses the best quality and freshest fish from nearby Newlyn market, with an emphasis upon sustainability and supporting local fishermen.

The laid-back atmosphere inside Shore belies the intense work that has gone into a quite outstanding six course set menu. The flavours of the sea are combined to create intriguing new experiences including: squid ink crackers, Cornish mushroom and seaweed tea followed by cured pollack, snap pea gazpacho and wasabi sorbet.

All too soon, it is time to leave this remote and special part of Britain, but perhaps after lunch and a visit to Newlyn. Made famous by its art school in the late 19th century, this small fishing village retains its reputation as one of the finest hunting grouds in the country.

Almost hidden away in the cottages and only a few hundred yards away from the harbourside fish market is the Tolcarne Inn. Step inside this cosy fishermans pub and the simple, traditional panelled interior offers a relaxed welcome with a superb menu. Cornwall has many bolthole pubs beside the sea, but it is the attention to detail, extensive wine list and exceptional fish that makes the Tolcarne stand out. Diners must decide between Porthilly mussels, spider crab claws with funky leaves or the turbot with Cornish asparagus and shrimp butter - and the rhubarb and saffron trifle needs no deliberation.

Escape and discovery always appeal to the curious and impulsive who seek a restorative break, this all too short 48 hours in West Cornwall offers a sublime combination of both.

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